Keeping up with the Joneses: examining community-level collaborative and competitive game mechanics to enhance household electricity-saving behaviour

Wemyss, Devon and Castri, Roberta and De Luca, Vanessa and Cellina, Francesca and Frick, Vivian and Lobsiger-Kägi, Evelyn and Galbani (-Bianchi), Pamela and Hertach, Christian and Kuhen, Tobias and Carabias, Vicente (2016) Keeping up with the Joneses: examining community-level collaborative and competitive game mechanics to enhance household electricity-saving behaviour. In: Behave 2016 - 4th European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency, 08.08.2016-09.08.2016, Coimbra, Portugal.

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To test the effectiveness of competitive and ollaborative settings on engaging households, a mobile app, called Social Power, was developed to provide electricity meter feedback in two gamified environments. The project aims at stimulating social engagement and promoting behavioural change to save electricity at the household level by forming teams of neighbours in two Swiss cities. The household participants are assigned to one of two teams: either a collaborative team where citizens in the same city try to reach a fixed, collective 10% electricity savings target together, or a competitive team which tries to save the most electricity in comparison to the other city. The collaborative and competitive games were run in parallel as a three month field experiment (with long term monitoring after one year, planned for spring 2017) involving 108 recruited households, and 46 who actively played. The experiment complements the process of smart meter roll-outs initiated by the local energy utility in each respective city with the secondary aim of capturing added benefits of smart meters. Weekly electricity-saving themed challenges are presented to the household member playing on the app. By playing, the participants can change their real-life electricity consumption by interacting differently with their home electricity appliances and at the same time acquire four types of points in the app: electricity saving, electricity efficiency, energy awareness and peak-shifting. New challenges each week and continued interaction aim to improve non-sustainable habits. Tips, quizzes with tangible prizes, and individual badges for accomplishments are used as further incentives for participation. Alongside the app, a blog page and Facebook exist to allow players to interact with each other. An electricity use interface visualises the household electricity demand at hourly and weekly intervals and shows the change from the historical average, as well as their team’s savings performance. In this paper we introduce preliminary results on the short-term success of the two game environments after the intervention phase completed in May 2016.

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